A. Crime in Canada

AuthorKent Roach
ProfessionFaculty of Law and Centre of Criminology. University of Toronto

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Victimization studies suggest that about 25 percent of all Canadians are victims of crime in a year. Most of these crimes are theft of personal or household property. Most who suffer both property and violent

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crimes do not report them to the police. In only 31 percent of cases in a 2009 survey did victims report the crime to the police. The reasons for not reporting vary but often relate to a perception that reporting would not be useful for the crime victim or that the incident was not serious enough or that the victim would deal with the crime in another way. The perpetrator of most violent crime is often someone known to the victim, and the site of most violence is the home.

In 2010, there were just over 2.1 million crimes reported to the police. This represented the lowest level of reported crime since 1973. There were 554 homicides reported to the police, the lowest number since 1996. The majority (79 percent) of crimes reported to the police are non-violent. The majority of crimes reported to the police do not result in charges. The majority of cases in which charges are laid are resolved without a trial, and end in a finding of guilt. In a process commonly known as plea bargaining, the prosecutor may withdraw some charges or take certain positions on sentence if the accused agrees to plead guilty. The accused may receive a more lenient sentence because he or she has pled guilty. Less than 10 percent of cases go to trial and about 40 percent of these trials result in acquittals, but acquittals account for only 3 percent of all criminal cases. Only a very small minority of either convictions or acquittals are ever appealed. Nevertheless, appeal cases are crucial to the development of the criminal law. Appeal courts, most notably the Supreme Court of Canada, interpret the Criminal Code. They also develop judge-made common law, so long as this law is not inconsistent with the Code and does not create new offences. Appeal courts also apply the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter) to the activities of police and prosecutors, as well as to laws enacted by legislatures.

In 2008/09, adult criminal...

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